Red Bones, the third instalment of Ann Cleeves' Shetland Quartet, is set in spring: a time of rebirth and celebration. And a time of death... for April is the cruelest month.
Perhaps that's why Red Bones was chosen as the basis for Shetland, a new two-part crime drama set in Scotland and starring Douglas Henshall. A special Shetland preview on November 21st was well received by the local audience, and Ann Cleeves gave it her approval too: "It's great," she said. "It's not faithful to the book but it's faithful to the atmosphere and spirit of the book. It's important that it's a good piece of TV rather than stick rigidly to the book." The transmission date has not yet been announced, but is expected to be some time in January.
When a young archaeologist discovers a set of human remains, the island community is intrigued. Is it an ancient find - or a more contemporary mystery? Then an elderly woman is shot on her land in a tragic accident, and Jimmy Perez is called in by her grandson, his own colleague Sandy Wilson. He finds two feuding families whose envy, greed and bitterness has divided the surrounding community.
With Fran in London, and surrounded by people he doesn't know and a community he has no links with, Jimmy finds himself out of his depth. Then another woman dies, and as the spring weather shrouds the island in claustrophobic mists, the two deaths remain shrouded in mystery.
Red Bones was long-listed for the Impac Dublin Award.
Red Bones was first published in the UK in February 2009; the paperback edition followed in February 2010, and the TV tie-in edition in November 2012. Use the links to order a copy from Amazon.UK, or order from any bookshop, quoting the ISBN:
- Order the new paperback edition (ISBN: 978-0-330-44826-0).
- or the orginal hardback edition (ISBN: 978-0-230-01446-6).
- Charnwood Large Print edition (published in September 2009).
- Now also available as a Kindle eBook.
Red Bones is also available as an ISIS Soundings audio book read by Gordon Griffin; order it direct from the publisher in a choice of audio formats.
The US edition of Red Bones was published by Minotaur Books on September 1, 2009; order it from Borders.com or from BN.com, or place an order with your local bookstore, quoting the ISBN: 978-0-3123-8434-0. It is also available from the publisher in a choice of eBook formats, and in a Kindle edition.
Hear Ann talking about Red Bones - and other things - in a podcast on the Pan Macmillan web site.
Find the locations described in Red Bones on a map of Shetland.
Publishers' Weekly made Red Bones their Pick of the Week, and described it as "excellent".
Kirkus Review said "Cleeves is expert at depicting hardscrabble island life, parental expectations and disappointments and emotionally charged silences. Thoughtful readers should give Perez a try."
"Ann Cleeves' fellow crime fiction practitioners (from Colin Dexter to Peter Robinson) have been lining up to sing her praises, and it's unlikely that there will be any blip in that chorus of praise on the evidence of Red Bones, which is quite as assured and entertaining as its predecessors,."
"Cleeves is quietly carving out a reputation as the new Queen of Crime, and this chilling thriller should help her on her way."
"Cleeves is a master of the stunning twist... She's also an expert stylist of deceptively spare prose and a creator of entirely realistic characters; this time out, she focuses on Sandy Wilson, thought to be dim and immature but who, under Perez's guidance, becomes one of her most intriguing creations.
"Permeated with place - Cleeves makes the Shetlands vivid in the reader's mind - and filled with a moral sensibility, Red Bones stands as a cautionary tale against letting the past fester into a lethal infection of the soul."
"Like a smoky Shetland peat fire, this elegantly written, slow-burning intrigue shrouds you in mystery and crackles with inner heat."
"Red Bones gives us plenty to chew on; an intricate plot, quirky characters and that special Shetland atmosphere, at once eerie and beautiful, that Ann Cleeves is making her own. Let's hope she keeps on going through all the colours of the northern lights!"
"Cleeves pulls out all the stops in this terrific tale."
"...this intelligent mystery..."
"Cunning character play and deception play their part in this satisfying tale, bringing about a denouement that turns everything in the plot neatly and bewilderingly on its head."
Gerald Kaufman, The Scotsman